As TransLink turns a page

Those of you familiar with the HandyDART file will be aware of the fact that a few years ago TransLink awarded this very important contract to a for-profit, privately owned American company based in Dallas, Texas. Users and workers have been complaining about the quality of service ever since.

Ford_E-Series_TransLink_Cutaway

HandyDART has been an essential and safe wheelchair-accessible mode of transport in BC since 1981.

A group I’m with, the HandyDART Riders’ Alliance, has been lobbying TransLink for quite some time to take a fresh, hard look at the pros and cons of HandyDART service being contracted out. TransLink does not contract out any of its other operations. It operates them through wholly owned subsidiaries — Coast Mountain Bus Company operates the SeaBus and almost all of the region’s buses; British Columbia Rapid Transit Company operates two of the three SkyTrain lines and the West Coast Express. HandyDART should be in-house as well.

A month ago I made a presentation to the TransLink board. It included three proposals:

  1. TransLink conduct something called a public sector comparator. This is when government conducts an analysis to determine whether or not a particular service is best contracted out.
  2. If HandyDART is put out to tender again, that TransLink’s procurement department amend the RFP (Request for Proposal) to make it a requirement that bidders indicate in their bid how, if awarded the contract, they will ensure meaningful and substantive input from the users and workers.
  3. That if TransLink insists on putting this service out to tender again when the current contract ends, that TransLink create a wholly owned HandyDART subsidiary and that this subsidiary submit a bid to TransLink’s procurement department.

Recently, I was very pleased to receive a totally unsolicited call from TransLink’s new CEO, Kevin Desmond. He asked if we might meet, which I was very pleased to agree to. The meeting, which took place in his office, lasted an hour and it very quickly became clear to me that TransLink’s new hire is a breath of fresh air.

Mr. Desmond has an open mind. He listened carefully and took notes throughout our meeting. Just a few days later he phoned and let me know that he had agreed to points 1 and 2 I outlined above. He also proposed the creation of a TransLink-appointed committee that would include representatives from the HandyDART community. This committee would oversee points 1 and 2.

I am returning to meet with the TransLink board Thursday, June 23. This time I won’t be asking. I will be complimenting!

By the way, if you want to know more about the HandyDART Riders’ Alliance, here’s the website, their Facebook and Twitter.

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